Customer Advisory Boards – Align Internally to Act

Customer Advisory Boards have the potential to dramatically shift and improve your business while you engage deeply with your most strategic clients.  But experience shows that one of the biggest barriers to success is the host company’s internal ability to take in, process and act on the advice.  Here are a few challenges we see, and aspects to consider as you build the internal structure to support your Board.

The right people at the table.  Getting the right internal executives to sit on the Advisory Board is a key starting point to drive action.  If your internal Advisory Board members do not have the vision, the mandate and the power to make change, little can be done with the advice you receive.  Make sure your Board members are:

  • Senior enough in the organization to personally make the resource/budget/staffing/strategy decisions required to respond to what they hear and be able to influence others to change behaviors
  • Sitting in the right roles and functions in the organization that align to where the Board is advising to ensure they have a stake in the outcomes
  • Diverse enough in role and perspective to see and understand enterprise-wide implications of taking action

The right content on the agenda.  Your clients will share advice and recommendations on any range of topics and challenges you put in front of them.  The key to being able to take action is to focus the areas where you really want and need advice.  Connecting back to my recent post “Less is Definitely More: The Customer Advisory Board Content Trap,” an important consequence of agenda content overload is action paralysis after the fact.  If you have too much content, it is impossible to follow up effectively on every piece of advice, which dilutes the impact of your clients’ important feedback.  Keep the content clear and targeted to spur action on an ongoing basis.

A process to extend the learning.  To drive broader action from the advice received, you will need to build a systematic way to share and embed the advice throughout the enterprise.  Assign a resource to package and extract the learning and the implications for different teams within the organization and collaborate with your internal Board leaders on the plan to roll it out.

Measures to drive action.  It helps you and your Board members to find a way to hold yourselves accountable for taking action.  Work with the internal executive team sitting on the Board to develop a shared view on how to track and measure progress on taking action coming out of your Board meetings.  Focus on some leading measures to make sure you are actually taking the steps to move from listening to action and then add some outcome measures around the results of your actions.  Both measures are critical for gaining internal alignment and commitment from those who will lead the change.  This will also serve as a very effective way to report back to the Advisory Board on the progress you are making.

It pays to address these internal challenges first, before getting your clients involved.  Your Advisory Board will be all the more effective and impactful for your efforts.

 

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